Lacquer with shell; copper alloy bead; wood and ivory nesuke
The inro is a container made up of tiers. Japanese men used them because the traditional Japanese garment, the kimono, had no pockets. From the late 1500s onwards, Japanese men wore the inro suspended from their sash by a silk cord and a netsuke (toggle). They originally used it to hold their seal and ink or a supply of medicines. However, it rapidly became a costly fashion accessory of little or no practical use. Most inro are rectangular with gently curving sides.
Lacquer was most commonly used in the manufacture of inro since it was highly suitable for storing medicines. Lacquer is the sap from the tree Rhus verniciflua that grows mainly in East Asia. After processing, it is applied in many thin layers to a base material. The craft of lacquering, as well as making inro bodies, is highly complex, time-consuming and expensive. This inro is decorated with chrysanthemums against a vertically striped ground.
This is a rare example of a comparatively early inro that dates from the 17th century. At this early date, inro decoration mostly coincided with contemporary lacquer styles and techniques. The chrysanthemum crest was a motif widely used in late 16th and early 17th century lacquer. It is also worth noting that much of the gold powder on the raised parts of the chrysanthemums has been lost. This is consistent with a 17th century date when it was customary not to cover the lacquer design with transparent lacquer. This has resulted in the top layers of lacquer being worn away by rubbing against the body.
Sage Memorial Gift